Friday, May 8, 2009

Hole in the Bucket

I swear I haven't forgotten about the more involved topics I've promised for this blog, including the forthcoming detailed reviews of research papers. This I will do when my brain works again.

Spring has become an infuriating exercise in juggling contingencies and also, not sleeping.

Will I be able to go back to Montana? When? For how long? So much depends on developments in the legal melodrama over which we have no influence.

When my SLOH elected to become worse than useless for a month or so, during the busiest time of year on a farm -- because he did not want to miss any of the putative cross-country ski season earlier in the year -- that did not improve the situation.

When I found that I had been demoted from invisible house elf to unpaid rush-hour chauffeur, and that this four-day assignment dragged on for three weeks, sucking up a tank of gas every other day and four hours every single workday -- four hours of prime daylight time, two of them out of the very middle of the productive day -- I was getting very close to violently offing someone from a short list that includes, but is not limited to, Yours Truly and the SLOH.

Did I mention that I've been having intermittently severe back and neck pain, and paresthesia in my hands, for over a month? Pain and paresthesia that becomes highly troublesome when I must drive, and excruciating when I'm jerking around in Pittsburgh* traffic? Pain and parasthesia that my new, now former, PCP declared didn't exist, since there was "nothing wrong" in my neck radiographs.

Am I sounding a bit cranky?

As of today I've quit the chauffeur gig, and this week finally visited a chiropractor who fixes backs -- as opposed to curing the common cold and/or diddling around and sucking the insurance and my bank account dry -- and got my head popped like a champagne cork. The temptation to barricade the driveway and cut the phone lines remains.

Cannot get sheep and goats until fences are in. Cannot get fences in until fence lines are clear. Cannot clear brush from fence lines with power tools because of tangled crapfest of six generations of broken, drooping, never-maintained, rusted, grown-into-trees fence wire. Cannot get to the crapfest of wire because of the brambles. Hole in the bucket.

I keep breaking and losing parts of Tractor-San, leading to further nesting hole-in-the-bucket scenarios. No sooner do I replace a missing turnbuckle on the right lift arm than I have to find and repair a fuel-tank leak. A tiller cannot be found for the beast for love nor money, so I paid a couple guys to plow and then till a 50' x 100' garden, which will be enough for this year.

On the poultry front, there are the 105 meat bird chicks, the 13 new eggers (straight run, so I've no idea how many will be the pullets I seek), still sixteen ducks. I would prefer fewer ducks. The guineas have all gone elsewhere -- the last of them traded for Delaware chicks. Henery Hawk the rooster is splinted up in sick bay with a distal fracture of his tib-fib.

And finally, Thursday night, Buffy II, Mother of The Brood, started hatching chicks:

She hatched out 7 of 11 eggs, which is okay for a first-timer. Sadly, only two of the blue Ameraucana eggs hatched -- all the failures were Ameraucanas, all the brown eggs hatched. Two of the non-hatchers that I rolled down the groundhog hole today exploded on the way down. Bwaa haa haaa haaa.

We know who the Baby Daddy is, but it's anyone's guess who da Momma is for any given chick. I was tickled to see the little coal-black ones, which I didn't expect. How they will feather out is a complete mystery.

I am absolutely delighted to watch her teach them what to eat, and call them to come nest in her voluminous feathers. So far she seems to be a good Broody, except that when she was setting the eggs she ate virtually nothing (despite food and water within reach) and she did not leave the nest to poop. This unsanitary habit may account for the failure of some of the eggs. If she fouls the nest on a second brood, I'll probably retire her from that role.

Right now the family is in the indoor portion of the dog kennel, a clean box stall with fresh wood chips on the floor. I'll set them loose to free-range with the rest when the chicks can move around well enough to negotiate the pop door.

On the dog front, first, Happy Birthday to Rosie and the Pistons. They are two years old today. This is something like an eighteenth birthday in dog terms. It's the age to start radiographing hips and thinking seriously about breeding a year or two from now, if that's an option on the table at all. It's the age at which one starts to think "Well, this is pretty much the dog that I'm going to have."

In the case of Rosie -- I can live with that. The crabapple doesn't roll very far from the tree.

Adorable Spike has entered adolescence -- as evidenced by his now constant notarized requests that Moe please kill him immediately -- and was abducted by aliens last week and returned sans huevos. I've had a couple applications on Spike, but they have not panned out -- he is looking for a great home.

* Land of civil engineers who graduated in the 10th percentile of their classes.


  1. You're welcome for the chiropractor referral, by the way.

  2. So I suppose I am not the only one who tells/reminds their significant other that "Dobby does NOT live here!"

    Because apparently, this is not obvious.

    I completely sympathize with the circular nature of your problem. Speaking with a blacksmith friend of mine today, he asked if I still wanted a new! improved! (taller, multiple goat) milk stand. In theory, this milk stand will make my milking go faster, and save my knees from a bazillion deep knee bends, the sort they encounter every day due to current milk stands. However, I have to do design and layout, which I don't have time for because milking and bottle feeding the goats is taking up too much of my time. He's never done a milk stand before, so he isn't going to whip up a design on his own either.

    As for the goats, if you get some panels, you could make a goat tractor, which is how we are having them mow our weeds outside of the pasture. If the squares of the panels are big enough, the goats can stick their heads through, and eat what is on the other side. This way, you can contain them in a smaller space that is within your larger space that needs fencing. We had weeds taller than our goats, and put our "goat tractor" pen right up next to the weeds, and the boys would eat the weeds down as far as they could reach, then we'd pull the pen up to the next set of tall weeds. If the pen is just a few panels, it's easy enough for one person to move.

  3. I was going to mention the goat tractor, but Sarah beat me to it.

    Have you tried the PA's Women in Agriculture branch for questions about your tractor? The URL is

    Power tools/motors and adjudicated youth do not mix, so I know nothing about them, but WAgN-PA has several classes on tractor maintenance and I have seen your brand mentioned in passing fairly often, so I would think you could at least borrow an attachemnt.

    May is hard on your hands -- between trowel work all day and typing on the computer all night, if you don't get carpel tunnel usually, you'll get it in May. I wear the brace at night to keep my wrists straight and take a multiple-B vitamin (one of the Bs is supposed to help with carpal tunnel but I don't remember what it is, plus I have to take other ones for my disability, so I take a multi-B with lots of everything and it seems to work)

    Neuro problems are the worst and actually have the highest ratio of doctors blowing you off (Boy, did I feel better when I read THAT study! ;-P) So, do your research, don't be afraid to "fire" doctors who aren't helpful and keep at it until YOU feel better. I have been there for far too long -- there ain't no point to it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise (like YOU would! ;-D).

    Hope this helps.


  4. OMG!

    Goat tractor! Goat tractor! Goat tractor!

    Just the rotational grazing that I'll be doing later with the electronet, on a smaller scale.

    Here I am, constructing range shelters for the chooks, and a goat tractor is so much simpler.

    Now I just got to get hold of some goats that are not never-wormed scrub bucks with scurs.

    Because apparently around here it is dandy to DIY a bad dehorning job, but a Sin Against Nature to wether the damned buck kids so they are worth something to someone.

    Plenty of ads, nobody returns calls/emails.

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou.

    And Dorene, good tip about the B vitamins and the tractor classes.

    I actually got a day-long tractor tutorial from My Friend Bill. We pulled it apart and replaced every fluid, filter, etc. that there was. Overhauled the mower deck -- grease points, sharpened blades -- and reinstalled it. Felt like the ultimate Tractor Mama when I was done. This does not prevent me from losing parts (the turnbuckle on the right hitch arm worked itself off when I failed to re-tighten it after removing the rear blade) or breaking stuff -- I think the fuel tank took a hit when I was involved in some angry, cathartic, charismatic maneuvers concerning some multiflora forest.

    When I have the 14-year-old "handful" here to work, no power tools appear. And the machete is mine.

  5. Tractor Supply had a sale. Just nipped out and got eight 16' cattle panels. And figured out how to transport them on an 8' trailer, despite the TS employee's skepticism that this could be done.

    Now, to find the goats.

    I'm excited about this plan, and cannot wait to be a part of it.


    Anyone in Texas have some wethers that need fattening up? I have 20 acres to clear. :P


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